Leftist Jewish Groups See Donations Surge in Protest of Trump's Israel Envoy Pick

Donations made 'in honor of David Friedman' are streaming in to organizations such as J Street, the New Israel Fund and Americans for Peace Now.

Donald J. Trump, right, his daughter Ivanka Trump, left, and attorney David Friedman exit U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Camden, New Jersey, U.S., February 25, 2010.
Bradley C. Bower/Bloomberg

NEW YORK – Left-wing Jewish nonprofits have been enjoying a surge in donations even in the short time since David Friedman was nominated by President-elect Donald Trump to be the next U.S. ambassador to Israel, as well as after Trump’s victory generally.

J Street, the New Israel Fund and Americans for Peace Now are among the organizations that have received donations made “in honor of David Friedman,” though representatives couldn’t say exactly how many of their new contributions were specified that way.

Friedman called out J Street by name when he compared its supporters to kapos, or Jews who informed on fellow Jews in Nazi death camps. He also said, at a private session at the recent Saban Forum, that J Street supporters “are not Jewish and they’re not pro-Israel,” and that he wouldn’t meet with them.

J Street is capitalizing on Friedman’s slurs. Its home page says “He called you kapos stand with us to fight his nomination,” above a “donate” button.

In the day and a half since Friedman’s nomination, J Street has received “tens of thousands of dollars” in new gifts, half from new supporters and most of it online, organization spokesman Logan Bayroff told Haaretz. It is more small online gifts “than we usually receive in two months,” Bayroff said. “It’s a real surge in support and enthusiasm for our work.”

The New Israel Fund saw donations jump 300 percent in the day following Friedman’s nomination. Income that day totaled $30,000 from 100 different donors. Though it is peak fundraising season, “it’s a significant spike, even for this time of year,” Noam Shelef, NIF's Deputy VP for Communications, told Haaretz.

“It’s often just people who are not the $25,000 donors but NIF-ers who get angry and this is their way of pushing back,” NIF President Daniel Sokatch told Haaretz.

In 2014, the most recent year for which publicly filed tax statements are available, NIF raised $29.5 million. Two thirds of that goes to grantees in Israel, either directly or through Shatil, NIF’s capacity-building subsidiary, Sokatch said.

In that same period, J Street raised nearly $7.5 million through its main organization and its arm called J Street Education, according to tax documents.

J Street donor Peter Frey is a Manhattan-based retired Wall Street executive who co-chairs the organization’s New York City chapter and is a J Street national board member.

“Given the fact that this nomination [of Friedman] is so egregious, so offensive in so many ways, it is not surprising that the J Street numbers of online contributions, and unusually large contributions, are really going through the roof,” Frey told Haaretz.

Friedman’s picking on J Street, a liberal Zionist, anti-BDS organization, rather than on one of the pro-BDS groups to its left “is a highly unfortunate circumstance which will benefit J Street not just financially but in terms of J Street’s standing,” Frey said. “So many American Jews will look at this and say ‘whose side am I on? Which is a voice of moderation, and which is the voice of extremism?’"

The phenomenon isn’t limited to Jewish groups. The Planned Parenthood Federation of America and other liberal non-profits including the Sierra Club and the ACLU have enjoyed similar fundraising spikes since Trump’s election.

Meanwhile, Ameinu, formerly known as the Labor Zionist Alliance, has seen “a modest spike in unexpected gifts” since Friedman’s nomination, CEO Gideon Aronoff told Haaretz. The ADL, too, saw a 50-fold increase in donations immediately following the election.

Americans for Peace Now is also among the recipients of donors’ expressions of upset about Friedman. According to APN spokesman Ori Nir, a solicitation the group emailed to supporters on Friday that mentioned Friedman did twice as well as their typical email ask. But generally, “it’s too soon to say how the Friedman affair is impacting donations,” he said.

His organization had $2.4 million in revenue in 2014, according to tax records.

Writer and feminist activist Letty Cottin Pogrebin has been a longtime APN donor, is a former board chair and now sits on the organization’s national board. Since Election Day she has donated to a wide range of liberal non-profits, she said in an interview, ticking off Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center and Gisha, an Israeli non-profit devoted to advocating for Palestinians’ freedom of movement, among others.

On Friday, she sent the fundraising letter for APN to 120 friends with the subject line “a plea from Letty” and a preamble saying, “Now that Donald Trump has chosen a stupendously inexperienced, inappropriate, unqualified nominee to be the U.S. Ambassador to Israel – David Friedman, a bankruptcy lawyer with demonstrably hard-right views – I consider it all the more urgent to encourage you to support APN.”

Friedman’s nomination signals a dangerous moment, she told Haaretz. “This man will dismantle everything State Department policy on the settlements, two states in every respect his views countermand longstanding U.S. policy. It’s beyond comprehension.”

“It’s an entirely natural thing to turn to advocacy organizations which are the only bulwark against this juggernaut,” she said. “It’s not just putting money where our mouth is – we’re putting it where our survival is. It’s not a new idea, but the motivation is much more compelling and urgent now.”